Using estimates of metal bioavailability in the soil and genetic variation of allozymes to investigate heavy metal tolerance in the earthworm Eisenia fetida (Oligochaeta)
In a recent study, we showed that the earthworm species Eisenia fetida, inhabiting an extremely high metal polluted compost heap on a wine farm, did not have elevated body loads of the metals but exhibited genotoxic tolerance when exposed to Cd in the laboratory (Voua Otomo and Reinecke, 2010). To unravel the mechanism behind the surprisingly low metal body burdens on one hand and genotoxic tolerance on the other hand, we investigated the estimated bioavailability of these metals (Cu, Zn, Pb and Cd) using sequential extraction methods with CaCl2 and di-ethylene-triamine-pentaacetic acid (DTPA) and allozyme polymorphism in this field population, a laboratory control as well as a long-term Cd exposed population. The amounts of mobile (extracted with CaCl2) and mobilizable (extracted with DTPA) metals in relation to the total (extracted with nitric acid) metals were all below 0.05% for all four metals, suggesting low availability for uptake. The low availability of these metals could not be explained by physico-chemical properties of soil but by the phenomenon of aging of the metals. There was no difference in allozyme frequency between metal tolerant and non-metal tolerant populations of E. fetida. This suggested that the tolerance found in earlier studies could be a mere physiological adaptation. © 2011.